Understanding Humpback Whales
In the vast expanse of the Salish Sea, the presence of humpback whales is a testament to their resilience. Once on the brink of extinction due to relentless hunting, these majestic creatures have made a triumphant return. A pivotal moment in this resurgence occurred when the first humpback whale in nearly a century was sighted – a remarkable female known as Big Mama. Since her appearance in 1997 she has graced these waters every year, leaving an indelible mark on the region. Big Mama’s legacy extends to her oldest documented calf, Split Fin, born in 2006, embodying the enduring spirit of humpback whales in the Salish Sea. Their remarkable migration, the longest of any animal on the planet, unfolds as they travel great distances annually. The most closely studied route spans from Alaska to Hawaii, where these incredible creatures have been observed covering the 4,830 km (3,000-mile) journey in as few as 36 days, showcasing the awe-inspiring endurance of humpback whales in their quest through the vastness of the seas.
Extensive studies reveal a distinct pattern in their migratory behavior. It’s observed that the Humpbacks that engage in summer feeding off the northern coast of British Columbia embark on a remarkable journey to the warm waters of Hawaii during the winter months. In contrast, those who spend their summers feeding in the southern reaches of British Columbia are more likely to be discovered in the wintering grounds of Mexico. However, not all Humpbacks adhere to this migratory routine; some opt to overwinter in both the northern and southern regions of British Columbia, if you are wondering about optimal times to see them in BC, check out our chart. Research suggests that this deviation might be attributed to various factors such as the whales not breeding that year, recent reproduction, or the need to feed and replenish depleted food reserves. Humpbacks tend to travel traveling alone or in loose groups of 2 to 5, creating a dynamic and diverse tapestry of migratory behaviors in these incredible marine mammals.
Feeding Grounds vs. Breeding Grounds
Breeding unfolds predominantly in the winter months within specific breeding grounds, notably in warm waters such as Hawaii and Mexico. The choice of these temperate locations is strategic, as the favorable conditions not only facilitate the birthing process but also provide a refuge from potential predators, such as Orcas. Conversely, the feeding grounds are typically situated in cold, productive waters during the spring/summer months. This makes the Salish Sea an optimal location, given its abundance of prey, including krill and small fish, creating a thriving ecosystem that supports the dietary needs of these magnificent whales. To learn more about what whales eat, check out our blog!
Importance of Conservation
The conservation of humpback whales is of paramount importance, as these majestic marine mammals play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. Their intricate migratory patterns connect different marine environments, making them essential indicators of the overall well-being of these ecosystems. Unfortunately, humpback whales face numerous threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with vessels, habitat degradation, and climate change. Conservation efforts are imperative to mitigate these risks and ensure the survival of humpback whales for future generations. By promoting sustainable fishing practices, implementing vessel speed restrictions in critical habitats, and advocating for marine protected areas, we can actively contribute to the preservation of these iconic creatures and the intricate web of life in our oceans. Conservation not only safeguards the humpback whale population but also reflects our commitment to maintaining the health and resilience of our global marine environment.
In 2023, we proudly declare our commitment to conservation by becoming Biosphere Certified, aligning our operations with sustainability practices to contribute to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainability Goals. Our dedication extends beyond mere words, as we actively engage in initiatives fostering environmental well-being. By endorsing sustainable practices, making donations to environmental causes, forming partnerships with conservation organizations, and offsetting our carbon emissions, we are taking tangible steps towards an eco-friendly future. As a founding member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, we adhere to the Whale Wise viewing guidelines, prioritizing the respect and protection of orcas and humpback whales in their natural habitats. Our collaboration with the BC Cetacean Sightings Network underscores our commitment to conservation and research, leveraging daily sightings data to support the protection of at-risk species. As proud members of 1% For the Planet, we pledge to contribute a minimum of 1% of our annual sales to local conservation initiatives that resonate with our values. Increasing our conservation fee from $2 to $5 reflects our ambitious goal of donating over $1 million, with each passenger charged contributing to the widespread and impactful reach of our conservation efforts. If you are wanting to see humpbacks in the wild, contact us or check out our tours!